This was really two one-to-one sessions rather than a group. One woman joined me for the hour of the group then another arrived 5 minutes before the end (because of another appointment). The second woman didn’t write anything, as she had arrived too late, but she was excited to meet me (because she had knew about the Words for Wellbeing book) and keen to chat. So I stayed for 3/4 hour after the official end of the session, and after the first woman had left the room, to chat with her.
The first patient, I’ll call her Bee, seemed anxious and agitated when she arrived. I talked with her for a little while and she calmed down. I decided to get her to try what I think of as a writing meditation – writing to describe something in the real world – writing in the here and now from one or more of the 5 senses.
I had brought along the postcards I bought earlier this month on a day trip to Edinburgh. I laid the cards on the table and we each chose a card we liked the look of. Mine was a photograph of a steeply inclined street with different coloured buildings. Bee chose a lovely photograph of the front of four apartments made out of 2 adjoining old houses. The layout of the apartments means there are 4 front doors in 2 rows of 2.
I said we would write for about 3 minutes (it’s best to start with a short write in acute mental health settings). But after 3 minutes Bee had managed just under two lines of writing. Bee said she wanted to carry on longer so we did. Bee continued to write – very slowly with many hesitations. We stopped after perhaps 10 minutes and I read my description to Bee. She asked me to read her description, which I did. It was about 5 or 6 lines long. We talked about the experience of writing our descriptions. Now that Bee was calm she seemed to be a bit drowsy – her speech contained hesitations while she searched for the word she wanted. She said she thought the medication was making her sleepy (not surprising).
Bee will have gained little from the actual writing I believe because she wrote so little, but she spent a relatively long time closely observing a picture of a calm neutral scene, and one that she clearly liked the look of. She also spent quite a long time conversing with me – someone who is not a nurse or a psychiatrist, who was not ‘analysing’ her or asking her to take medication, and who knows nothing of her past or of how she has been behaving on the ward. These 2 things, I hope, will have been of some benefit to Bee.
The 2 patients I met today were in very different moods on the day: one seemed anxious and then later a little sleepy, I don’t know her diagnosis yet but I’m guessing severe depression. The 2nd was lively and chatty and said she was recovering from a manic episode of her bipolar disorder. All that considered it may have been difficult for me to manage them together in a group and still ensure that Bee benefitted as much as I feel she did from the one-to-one. So perhaps it was fortunate that the session was split into two one-to-ones. It is a pity that the second patient didn’t have the opportunity to write. However she has written quite a lot in the past and she went away with a small pile of paper and a pen and the intention to do some writing before the next session (which will be this afternoon as I am writing this a week late).
Perhaps they will both be in my group today and perhaps Bee will be less sleepy. I love to see patients again week on week and observing the change in them as they recover.